British musician, 28, is killed by ‘group of men who beat him and threw him into a river’ in Georgia
A British tourist has been killed in Georgia by a ‘group of men who beat him unconscious and threw him into a river following an argument’, authorities say.
The body of musician Thomas Kennedy, 28, washed up in the Mtkvari river near the village of Kvakhvreli in Gori on Friday, three days after he was allegedly killed by a group of five Georgian citizens.
Giorgi Balashvili, 28, along with his friends Giorgi Okhanashvili, 17, Giorgi Kareli, 20, and Zura Palavandishvili, 19, were taken into custody on suspicion of murder along with Vasil Okropiridze, 24, who denied any part in the plot.
Kennedy is thought to have been invited to drink by the men after striking up a conversation with street busker Okropiridze in Gori city, but was later severely beaten by the group after they got into a drunken disagreement.
A police probe suggests Mr Kennedy was alive but unconscious when he was thrown into the river after the defendants panicked, believing they had killed him when he passed out.
A Georgian court heard Kennedy was thrown into the water in Gori city, but his body travelled two miles down-river before being discovered three days later.
British musician Thomas Kennedy, 28, (pictured) was killed in Georgia following a dispute with a group of local men who attacked him and threw into the Mtkvari River, authorities said
Talented musician Kennedy, 28, was ‘targeted’ by the group according to police.
After a day trip to the Joseph Stalin Museum, Kennedy began speaking with Okropiridze when four local ‘shady’ Georgians invited him for beers, a prosecutor told a Georgian court yesterday.
Kennedy’s phone, wallet and credit card were missing when he was found, prompting police to launch a murder investigation when they discovered his phone had been sold in a local pawn shop.
Okropiridze yesterday denied not notifying police of the plot, which he says he had no part in.
The other defendants admitted robbery but denied murder, instead claiming that Kennedy was running away from the fight when he fell into the river by himself and drowned.
But prosecutor Mikheil Beriashvili said: ‘The prosecution is not satisfied with the defence’s argument that the victim himself jumped or fell into river.
‘We believe we are dealing with a premeditated murder in order to destroy the incriminating evidence of another crime – robbing.
‘This was also carried out against a person who was helpless.’
All five defendants have been detained by a court for two months. They face from 13 to 17 years in prison if found guilty at their trial, which has been scheduled for November 8.
The musician (pictured playing the guitar) had arrived in Georgia on August 30, and was a student at a local music college. Thomas was attacked and then thrown ‘unconscious’ into the river and his body was found near the village of Kvakhvreli on October 8
A report on Mtavari TV channel said Kennedy had arrived in Georgia on August 30, and reports said he was a student at a local music college.
Kennedy is said to have told friends he wanted to ‘go somewhere far away’ after struggling with lockdown, and is thought to have met a Georgian girl online before making the trip to the former Soviet republic.
He was staying in the capital, Tbilisi, but had been visiting the museum to the communist dictator on the day he died.
On social media last month, Mr Kennedy posted: ‘I figured I would go somewhere far away. And Georgia seemed ideal. Small place. Big history.’
Tragically, he joked: ‘Still haven’t see Stalin’s house yet either.’
Five Georgian citizens, including one minor, have been detained on suspicion of murder and face between 13 to 17 years in prison if found guilty
Relatives have paid tribute to ‘kind’ Mr Kennedy, who comes from a large Irish family and whose death has left parents Eddie and Cathy devastated.
Aunt Patricia Pointon, from Derbyshire, wrote on Facebook: ‘RIP my beautiful nephew. You were unique in every way. One of the kindest souls to ever walk this earth, you trusted your heart and played your music as a genius! We will never forget you…Tom sleep tight.’
Her husband Darren Pointon, told the Mail Tom had left the family home in Larhardane, County Mayo, Ireland, after talking to a Georgian girl online.
Mr Pointon said: ‘We are a very close knit family. As far as I know, Tom had been chatting to a girl online and had gone out to meet her.
‘But after a week or so, it didn’t work out. I don’t know whether he had been staying with her or just travelling around.’
But Tom, who was in contact with his family almost every day, decided to stay on because he had a few weeks left on his visa and he liked the place.
‘Tom was a lovely, clean living lad. He had not had a drink for three years and the family are upset at reports that he had been drinking.
‘We are waiting to find out what happened but I have not seen him have a drink at family occasions for three years.
‘He was a lovely, talented lad who lived for music. He played the guitar, violin and piano and used to do a bit of busking himself and wrote his own songs. Maybe that is how he got talking to these people.
‘The family over in Ireland are trying to get out there so they can bring Tom home.’
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: ‘We are in contact with the local authorities following the death of a British man in Georgia and are providing support to his family.’